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Showing posts from 2008

Celebrating Christmas

Last night with my immediate family, tonight with our Christmas Eve service, tomorrow with Melinda's family, Friday with mine, and Saturday with my mother-in-law's.

It's not quite twelve days of Christmas, but it seems like it's getting closer all the time!

It's a real treat to celebrate the birth of our Savior in so many different ways, with so many different people: worshiping, feasting, fellowshipping, giving, receiving, playing, sleeping.

It may surprise some of you to know that many of our Protestant fathers took a rather dim view of Christmas. Consider the following passage from William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation.

Herewith I shall end this year--except to recall one more incident, rather amusing than serious. On Christmas Day, the Governor called the peole out to work as usual; but most of the new company excused themselves, and said it went against their consciences to work on that day. So the Governor told them, if they made it a matter of conscience…

Irish Feet a Dancin'

You don't have to be Irish to love this.

The Story Behind December 25

It is well known that the Bible does not give us the date of Jesus' birth. This fact has led a good number of well-meaning people to question whether his birth should even be celebrated at all. Some have even made the claim that the date of December 25 was deliberately settled upon as the day to commemorate his birth because it was already kept as a holy day by pagans in the Roman Empire. In settling upon December 25, the church (we are told) made an ill-advised attempt to christianize a pagan festival in the hope of helping the pagans convert to Christianity. Therefore, celebrating Christmas, is an implicit participation in paganism.

So the story goes. But William Tighe sets the story straight in his article, "Calculating Christmas," which first appeared in 2003 in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one mi…

Learning (even more) from the Pilgrims

As a follow up to the previous post I should point out that the Pilgrims abandoned their forced experiment in communism only by degrees. When they gave each family a plot of land to farm and to enjoy the fruits thereof, they did not give the land for a perpetual holding, but rotated each parcel of land by yearly lot. This naturally caused problems.

In order that they might raise their crops to better advantage, they made suit to the Governor to have some land apportioned for permanent holdings, and not by yearly lot, whereby the plots which the more industrious had brought under good culture one year would change hands the next, and others would reap the advantage; with the result that the manuring and culture of the land were neglected. It was well considered, and their request was granted. Every person was given one acre of land, for them and theirs, and they were to have no more till the seven years had expired.
The move had the intended effect and the colony prospered all the more.

Learning from the Pilgrims

One of the books I had my students read this semester was Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, who was elected governor of Plymouth Colony in 1621 and continued to serve in that position for more than 30 years.

There is much we can learn from the Pilgrims, and not only about the value of courage, hard work, and faith in God. There's a valuable economic lesson we can learn as well. By the terms of their contract with the London Company who put up a large portion of the funds to establish the colony, they were required to hold their lands and produce in common. This was an early experiment in communism. And how did things go, you ask? Here are Bradford's words:

So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for…

Gulliver's Lawyers

It’s not just in our own days that people have had a low opinion of lawyers. In his biting satire of early 18th century English life, Jonathan Swift has Gulliver tell his hosts in the land of the Houyhnhnms:

I said, “there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves. For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, he has a lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must then hire another to defend my right, it being against all rules of law that any man should be allowed to speak for himself. Now, in this case, I, who am the right owner, lie under two great disadvantages: first, my lawyer, being practised almost from his cradle in defending falsehood, is quite out of
his element when he would be an advocate for justice, which is an unnatural office he always attempts with great a…

A Suprisingly Strong Stand

Kudos to Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina. What if more churches took a stand like this? Well done, Rev. Newman, well done!

Mark Steyn's Analysis

I always enjoy reading Mark Steyn. If you haven't done so yet, you ought to read his "Center-Right America Lurches Further Left."

Election Reflections

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Here are a few things to remember regardless of whether or not the presidential election went the way you thought it should.

First, the outcome is not the absolute disaster that many people think it is. God remains sovereign over all the affairs of men, even of powerful political figures. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). God is able to prevent whatever evil or whatever folly a leader may intend to do. “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success” (Job 5:12). And even that evil and folly which he permits them to achieve, he is able to turn to the good (Gen. 50:20).

Second, the outcome is not the unrivalled blessing that others imagine it to be. Politicians are notoriously pitiful saviors. The best of them too often leave behind a trail of broken promises, dashed hopes, unfulfilled expectations, and betrayed trusts. To build one’s hopes on getting the “right” man in office is l…

The Song of Solomon

There once was a man who had been strictly warned of the dangers of falling into the ditch on the right hand side of the road. So fearful was he of doing this that as he walked he kept as far away as possible from it; but he ended up falling into the ditch on the left.

The moral of this little parable is that often when we seek to avoid one error, we end up falling into another, opposite one.

Christians tend to be well aware of the dangers of sexual sin, and so we take measures to guard ourselves against it...as we should. In doing so, however, we are sometimes tempted to think that it is sex itself which is sinful. We forget that God created us male and female and that he intends husbands and wives to enjoy one another sexually.

My sermon this week will be an overview of “The Song of Solomon,” which is a celebration of marriage and the delights of the marriage bed.

It seems that the church for much of its history has been embarrassed by the sensual nature of the book and has sought every…

The Best Office Foreign Money Can Buy

It's really too bad George Washington's farewell address--delivered as his second term as president was winding down--isn't more widely known, and its admonitions more widely heeded by today's politicians.

One of Washington's chief concerns was foreign influence in American affairs.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican Government.

I wonder what he would say of the millions of dollars Barak Obama has illegally received from overseas.

Pint-sized golfer

Okay, it's official. I'm giving up golf.

Obama's Redistribution of Wealth

Here's a good explanation of Obama's tax plan.

Wisdom From Our Founders

Thomas Jefferson nailed it.

"I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
This is no argument against banks per se, of course, but only an argument against the banking practices that modern banks are built upon...thanks to the Fed.

Gary Interviews Gary

Mix two Gary's discussing the economic crisis and here's what you get. Enlightening.

Even the Times Saw it Coming

The New York Times is no friend of conservative causes, but way back in 1999 it published an article that warned of the risky lending practices urged upon Fannie Mae by Clinton Administration.

One Step Closer to the Abyss

Hurry, more gasoline, we've gotta put the fire out!

It was the expansion of credit and the devaluation of the dollar that got us here, and the government just gave us more of the same.

Halloween

Here's a copy and paste job from Doug Wilson's blog offering us a good bit of wisdom on Halloween.

As another Halloween approaches, and as many of us are working on building alternatives, I wanted to take the opportunity to offer a few thoughts and pastoral suggestions. Here is the background.

First, November 1 is All Saints Day. The All Saints festival was first established during the times of persecution in the early church when the number of martyrs accumulated to the point where it was no longer possible to commemorate them all. In the time of John Chrysostom, all the martyrs were remembered on the first Sunday after Pentecost. In 608 A.D., the Pantheon, a former pagan temple to all the gods, was dedicated in Rome as a Christian church. The date of that dedication (May 13) became the day of "all saints." The day was moved to November 1 in 741 A.D. with the dedication of the Chapel of All Saints.

Second, in the British Isles, the day was known as All Hallows Day. The…

More on the Financial Crisis

Ten minutes of Ron Paul on Fox Business News. Well worth the time to watch. It's an interview before the House vote on Monday, but he explains why any government bailout--the House proposal or the one passed last night by the Senate or any other one in the future--is like pouring gasoline on the fire.

Fortunately our Senators, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts both voted against the bailout plan last night. Unfortunately, there was a huge majority that voted in favor of it (74-25). Let's hope the House rejects this plan like it rejected the earlier one Monday.

Global Cooling

I have been a skeptic of the whole global warming thing. Not so much a skeptic of whether the earth is getting warming. There seems to be a bit of evidence that things warmed up a tad during the 90's.

Rather, my skepticism concerns the causes (I doubt it's principally man-made), and the alleged disastrous results if the earth's temperature should rise a few degrees.

Al Gore, of course, has had no such doubts on either point. He is so convinced, that he is encouraging young people to engage in civil disobedience in the cause of global warming.

But is the earth really getting warmer?
Scientists involved in NASA's Ulysses project reported that the intensity of the sun's solar wind was at its lowest point since the beginning of the space age — one more indication that the sun, the biggest source of energy affecting the Earth, is getting quiet. The weaker solar wind appears to be due to changes in the sun's magnetic field, but the cause is unknown. Sunspots, which norma…

More Good Sense from Ron Paul

Check out Ron Paul's perspective on the president's proposed bailout on Youtube before and after yesterday's vote.

The Current Financial Crisis

The only major party presidential candidate who understands both the problem and the solution to our current economic crisis is Ron Paul. Either that or he's the only one with guts enough to talk about it. You can find Paul's analysis of the situation here.

For a really good introduction to economics in general, read Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy. In fact, read anything and everything you can get your hands on by Sowell. In my opinion, he's one of the most insightful thinkers of our day. You can read his weekly column here.

Another fine introduction to economics is Henry Hazlitt's, Economics in One Lesson. It's become a classic.

Murray Rothbard's What Has the Government Done to Our Moneyis good at explaining how monetary policy affects the value of the dollar, especially the effect of removing the dollar off the gold standard.

For a distinctively Christian approach to these subjects, try R. C. Sproul Jr.'s Biblical Ec…

Another PC Myth Exploded

All cultures are equal, right? And we shouldn’t judge cultures that differ from us? This is what we are constantly told by the relativistic forces of multiculturalism. All cultures are equal. We who live in the West shouldn't think that our once Christian culture was any better than any other.

Bernal Diaz might wish to disagree. In his telling the story of the conquest of Mexico, he frequently refers to the widespread practice of human sacrifice and cannibalism among the Indians in all the places they traveled, and makes no apology for taking measures to put a stop to it. Each paragraph below refers to a different place in their travels. And this is just a small sampling of passages that could be cited.

Juan de Grijalva with many of us soldiers landed to inspect this island, for we saw smoke rising from it. We found two stone buildings of good workmanship, each with a flight of steps leading up to a kind of altar, and on those altars were evil-looking idols, which were their gods. H…

All God's Creatures Have Fun 2

A dancing sea lion...whod'a thunk? Check it out here.

A Curious Prophecy

One of the really interesting things that Diaz mentions (several times) about the Spanish conquest of Mexico was the fact that all the Indian tribes held to a belief in a prophecy passed down to them from their ancestors that men with beards would come across the sea from the direction of the sunrise and rule over them. Where did this prophecy come from? Had there been a prior and long-forgotten contact with Europeans that served as the basis for this “prophecy”? Was it a legitimate prophecy, in that God really did speak through one of the pagan Indian prophets, as he did similarly through the pagan Balaam (Num. 22-24)? Or was it a faked prophecy of one of the pagan priests that God was pleased to use for his own purposes? Curious. Really curious.

PC Myth Exploded

In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been reading The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz, who marched with Cortes in the conquest of the Aztec Empire. It’s amazing just how different a first hand account of it is from the politically correct version that we generally hear today. According to the politically correct version, the Spanish were after gold, pure and simple. And they would let nothing stand in their way of acquiring it, not even the rights and lives of the Indians. The Spanish conquest was one of rape, pillage, plunder, and slavery--and all in the name of God and for the sake of gold.

Were there brutal, unscrupulous conquistadors, whose motives were lust and greed? No doubt there were. But to characterize the whole process of exploration, colonization, and conquest as if this is all it was, or even what it principally was, is clearly false. Worse, it's a slander of many good men.

Bernal Diaz came to the New World in 1514, settling for a time in Tierra Firme (present da…

Bernal Diaz and the Conquest of New Spain

One of the surest ways to turn students off when it comes to having them learn history is to have them read a history textbook. Textbooks all generally suffer from the same fatal flaw. They are written by committee. Hardly anything is more likely to guarantee a student’s boredom. A dry listing of names and dates. A detached recounting of events. An unappealing telling of the story.

This is why in my history classes we don’t rely much on textbooks, and the ones we do use are not written by committee.

What I like to use—not only because it’s far more accurate, but also because it’s far more interesting—are original sources. So, since this year we are studying the Age of Exploration to the present, one of the works we are reading is Bernal Diaz’ The Conquest of New Spain. Diaz was one of the soldiers who fought under Hernando Cortes in the conquest of Mexico. He wrote a fascinating first hand, eye-witness account that is an absolute pleasure to read. Historians generally regard it as being…

I'm Baaack!

For good or ill...I'm back online and ready to blog!

The Bare Necessities

I haven't posted anything in a while because I've had a good bit of trouble with my internet connection. I have to borrow a computer in order to use the internet and it's terribly inconventient to do much online except for the barest necessities. Hope to be back soon.

All God's Creatures have Fun!

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I ran accross a story on Fox News about the discovery of far more gorillas in the Republic of Congo than researchers previously thought lived there. This picture accompanied the story. I was amused.

Flew vs. Dawkins

Flew vs. Dawkins
August 4, 2008

A while back I wrote a couple of pieces about the so-called New Atheism. The New Atheism is simply the old atheism with an attitude.

One of the leading lights of the New Atheism is Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, who argues ad nauseum that belief in God is for little children and fools. Reasonable men (like Dawkins, of course) believe in neither god nor Santa Claus—nor for that matter the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. People who actually use their minds (like him), educated people (like him), reasonable people (like him), embrace the obvious truth that god does not exist.

Ah, but what is a new atheist to do when another prominent atheist, who says his goal is to go wherever the argument leads him, gives up his atheism? This is the pickle that Dawkins finds himself in. Not only must he explain away Anthony Flew’s giving up the atheist faith, he must answer Flew’s charge that he (Dawkins) is nothing but a blow hard “secular bigot.” You can rea…

Obamanomics

Last Friday Barack Obama announced his Emergency Economic Plan.

“What’s that,” you say?

Glad you asked. The short answer is—it’s a political stunt to buy the votes of the economically naïve.

The plan calls for “Forcing big oil companies to take a reasonable share of their record breaking windfall profits and use it to help struggling families with direct relief worth $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a married couple.” (For the full text of the plan click here.)

Just how would “big oil companies” be “forced” to do this? Through taxing the socks off them, of course.

Have you ever noticed how big business is always the villain in the economic policies of liberals? They always seem to assume that big businesses got so big because they cheated. They didn’t play by the rules. They had an unfair advantage.

In reality big businesses became big because they provided quality goods and services for the consumer at better prices than the other guys. This is simply the way the competitive free mark…

Media Obama-mongering

It has been rather stunning to see how the major news media have been fawning over Barack Obama. We have all known for a long time that the media has a very obvious bias for liberal candidates and causes. What’s surprising is not that they are Obama-mongers but that in their eagerness to see him elected they have thrown caution to the wind and given up all pretence to objectivity. This video highlights the problem.

On his recent trip to Iraq, Obama was accompanied by all three network news anchors: Charles Gibson (ABC), Katie Couric (CBS), and Brian Williams (NBC). Know how many accompanied John McCain earlier this year?

None.

With the free media coverage he’s getting, one wonders why he needs to raise so much campaign money, an incredible $51.9 million…last month.

Andrew Evans for Senate

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Just a reminder: we are only two weeks away from the primary (Tuesday, August 5th). Whoever wins the primary will be our state senator, since the winner of the primary will run unopposed in November. Andrew has been endorsed by Kansas for Life. He's a limited government, social and fiscal conservative. We can have confidence that he will represent us well in Topeka. For more information, check out his website.

A Dubious Day to Celebrate

Do you know what today is? It's the "Cost of Government Day." Americans on average work 197 days out of the year to pay the full cost of federal, state and local government spending and regulatory costs. This means the cost of government at all levels of American society consumes nearly 54 percent of national income.

You can read more about it here.

The Inimitable Wodehouse

My family and I recently watched several episodes of Masterpiece Theatre’s adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Wodehouse was reluctant to have his two most popular characters depicted on stage or in film, saying, “Jeeves knows his place, and it is between the covers of a book.” Nevertheless, director Simon Langton and actors Hugh Laurie (as Bertie Wooster) and Stephen Fry (as Jeeves) really do a fantastic job in putting these stories on film.

If you are not familiar with Wodehouse and his Jeeves and Wooster stories you really are missing some very entertaining reading. The stories take place in pre-World War II England. Bumbling Bertie Wooster and his witless friends are always getting themselves into scrapes of one sort or another only to be rescued by Jeeves, Bertie’s valet (or his “gentleman’s personal gentleman”). The stories often revolve around Bertie’s (or his friends’) relationship with women, all very innocent and humorous. Frequently it’s a matter of Bertie fin…

Why Are So Many Women Depressed?

I've often found Dennis Prager's insights...well, insightful. Here's an example:

http://dennisprager.townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2008/06/24/why_are_so_many_women_depressed

Good Reading

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Over the years one of my favorite family pastimes has been reading aloud to our children. We’ve read some really good books by some really good authors—some well known (e.g., Tolkien, Lewis), others…not so much. Last night we finished 100 Cupboards by the not so well known (yet) Nathan Wilson, which left us eagerly awaiting the release of book two in the trilogy Dandelion Fire, which I just learned has been delayed until February of 2009.

100 Cupboards is the story of 12 year old Henry York, whose parents were kidnapped while bicycling across South America. But that’s not where the action is. The action is in little Henry, Kansas. (Hey, whatyaknow, another great story takes place in Kansas! Think, Wizard of Oz and Little House on the Prairie, and don’t forget that Marianne on "Gilligan’s Island" was a Kansas farm girl!)

Henry York is actually from Boston, but after his parents turn up missing, he’s shipped off to Kansas to live with his aunt and uncle. He’s given a bedroom in…

The Problem (As I See It)

This is a follow up to my previous post on the controversy surrounding “The Louisiana Science Education Act.”

As a Christian, the problem is not the fact that evolution is being taught to school children. That must be done.

I realize that my saying this may be a bit of a surprise, especially to those of you who know me to be an unapologetic young earth six day creationist.

Still, it’s true. I insist that evolution must be taught to school children. Because I think it’s true? No, but because it’s the reigning theory. We simply cannot ignore what the vast majority of the scientific community believes (not to mention a significant minority of the general population). That’s why during the next school year my students and I will read On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. . . Yeah, that book—the one by Charles Darwin. It’s a vitally important read. It’s without question the most influential book written in the …

There’s Trouble a-brewin’ in Louisiana

Earlier this week, the Louisiana State Senate voted 36-0 to approve a bill that passed the House by a vote of 94-3. The bill would allow science teachers to use supplemental materials, in addition to state-issued textbooks, on issues like evolution, global warming, and human cloning. The purpose of the supplemental materials, the bill explains, is to encourage “critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied.” The bill is particularly aimed at giving teachers the assurance of academic freedom to actually teach that there is such a thing as a controversy over these subjects (especially evolution), instead of simply being intimidated into silence.

Governor Bobby Jindal is expected to sign the bill.

As you can imagine the secular fundamentalists are in a tizzy. The bill—titled “The Louisiana Science Education Act”—allows the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to act upon complaints and toss out any supplementa…

War of the Water Balloons

It came out of nowhere. I never saw it. But believe me…I felt it.

Smack! Splash!

I’d been hit, and hit good with a water balloon right upside the head, launched by my son from at least 40 feet away. The reason I never saw it coming was because I had my back turned and was running away. I had just made my sortie into hostile territory, unloaded my supply of water balloons, taking out both James and Suzanna, and was making good my escape. I was just about ready to break out into a victory dance as I proudly carried the enemy flag back to our home base.

And then it happened.

James didn’t even know he got me. He said it was a desperation throw. He didn’t even aim. He just let it fly. But it found its mark—my left temple. The force of it snapped by head sideways. I was drenched. It was by far the best throw of the night.

Nevertheless, Melinda, Elizabeth, and I, won the best of three capture the flag water balloon wars over James, Suzanna, and Hannah.

What a way to celebrate Father’s Day!

In Praise of Daughters

This has been an especially good eating week. One of the blessings of having so many daughters is that they are being trained to be wives and mothers, which makes yours truly the beneficiary of their still developing—but already amazingly honed—culinary skills. This week Melinda had three of our girls each take a turn at preparing supper. On Tuesday Suzanna (15) made homemade pizza. On Wednesday Elizabeth (13) made spaghetti and garlic bread. And Thursday Hannah (11) made Mexican food…just the way I like it—with fried flour tortillas shells. All this was after Melinda made smothered steak and mashed potatoes on Monday night.

As I said, it’s been an especially good eating week.

The Chronicler says that Obed-edom’s eight sons were a blessing from God (1 Chron. 26:4-5). No doubt they were. But if Obed-edom could have eaten what I’ve eaten this week, he might envy me for my five daughters!

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

While we’re on the subject of atheism, I should mention the “conversion” of Anthony Flew. He is a renowned philosopher who for the second half of the 20th century was perhaps the world’s leading atheist. He first came to prominence as a philosopher when he presented a paper at the Oxford University Socratic Club in 1950, chaired at the time by C. S. Lewis, himself a former atheist. The Socratic Club was formed for the purpose of providing “an open forum for the discussion of the intellectual difficulties connected with religion and with Christianity in particular.” Flew’s paper was entitled “Theology and Falsification,” and became the one of the most widely reprinted philosophical publications of the 20th century. He went on to write more than thirty books, including God and Philosophy, The Presumption of Atheism, and How to Think Straight.

Several years ago I showed a televised debate between Flew and Dr. Gary Habermas on the subject of Christ’s resurrection to a small Bible study gro…

What's New About the New Atheism?

I’ve been reading a number of books by and about the New Atheists: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens. What makes the New Atheism new is not its arguments so much as its hysterics. For the new atheists, everything that’s wrong with the world is traceable to the presence of so many people who believe in God. The new atheists are not content to simply give reasoned arguments for their position, they feel compelled to mock and vilify their opponents. It’s not simply a matter of, “I don’t believe God exists,” but rather, “The God portrayed in the Bible is wicked and those who believe in him are fools.”

Richard Dawkins, for instance, in The God Delusion, says, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochisti…

Here Goes

I'm taking the plunge. I'm finally entering the blog world, and I am probably getting in way over my head. But hopefully I'll be able to tread water and keep afloat. I hope to make two or three posts a week on a variety of topics including: the Bible, current events, church and family life, art, history, philosophy, economics, politics, education, food, friendship, laughter, literature...in a word: LIFE.